No one will ever know how close (except the five remaining members of our crew how close there was to being TWO "Lady be Good."s We were ferrying a new plane to
Italy as hundreds of new crews did. Our trip from Topeka, to West Palm Beach, Trinidad, to Belem, to Natal to Dakar to Marechech(sp) was rather uneventful.
[Does anyone who flew this route remember seeing all the cliff houses between Dakar and Marechech and would you have any idea what Country they were in?].
We were held up two days in Marechech due to weather. Finally operations said it was O.K. to fly on to Tunis and we took off. As we approached Oran the weather
really looked lousy ahead and the pilot called in to Oran and they said go ahead ceiling 4000 ft visibility 2 miles at Tunis and we went on ahead. The navigator finally said
we should be over Tunis and we let down to about 3000ft. and was flying through extremely broken clouds. We crossed the marker beacon 3 times and never saw the
ground. There were mountains in the area higher than the altitude we were flying. Finally our pilot said enough of the s--- were getting out of this stuff and started to climb
and we headed South West. We couldn't climb any higher than 13000 ft because we had no oxygen and had to transfer fuel. We had crossed the marker beacon at
Tunis sometime around noon. After we got up to about 13000 ft we ran into something that if ...you told me happened I would call you a da-- liar. We ran into a snow
storm as bad as I have ever seen and I lived in Iowa for 31 years. Remember this was about June 20 1944. The pilot was on instruments maybe an hour and a half, plus
or minus, The weather was so violent the compass was swinging so badly the navigator couldn't even do any DR navigation. The whole crew was freezing our butts
off and the pilot was ringing wet with sweat with sweat running off his chin. He had to use the deicer boots to clear snow from the leading edge of the wings a number
of times. Finally after 1 1/2 or 2 hours we broke out in the clear sunshine. What did we see??? sand sand sand as far as you could see. The pilot told the Radio Operator
send out a QDM or a QRM (emergency call) or whatever the signal was and ask for a heading. Finally the radio operater got a cw contact on the Liason Set and they
gave us a heading to Bone which would have headed us right back into the middle of the storm. The pilot said "no way Jose" were not going back into that stuff.
We had a conference and decided to head east because we knew the Mediterranean was in that direction. They only gave the navigator a 200 mile strip map along
our route but fortunately he had picked up a french map of Africa he saw laying in the briefing room in Natal Brazil. We flew due east and after a couple more hours
we could see water. We saw an abandoned landing stip on the coast that didn't look to good. We new we were north of Tripoli from the french map and headed in that
direction. It was now late in the afternoon and after flying in the direction of Tripoli for 15 minutes or so the pilot made a decision. He said we don't know if the have lights
at Tripoli and it may be dark before we get there we're going back ond land on that strip. We turned around and went back to that abandoned strip and drug it and dropped
a flare to see which way the wind was blowing. The pilot circled and made the most beautiful landing I ever saw thrashing peaches on the way in and stradling ruts in the dirt
run way. He taxied back to the end of the runway and parked the plane. We didn't have any idea where we were. A couple of Arabs walked toward us and we stayed in a
bunch with our 45's in our shoulder holsters. This strip was kind of on a bluff right on the edge of the sea. Pretty soon we heard a boat engine and walked over the edge
of the bluff and saw a barge like boat approaching. It turned out to be a bunch of our British friends. They had a base on on Island in the bay and they serviced Sunderland
Flying boats traveling from England to Eygpt or somewhere. The strip on which we landed was a dirt strip that was used in the invasion of Malta. The Brits put guards on
our plane and took us all over to the island and fed us and put us up for the night. They got on the radio and we finally contacted Tunis and told them where we were. Tunis
asked if we wanted them to send a pilot down to fly us out and our pilot said "Hell no I flew her in here and I can fly her out." The next morning they hauled 55 gallon drums
over to our plane and hand pumped 1000 gallons of petrol in our plane. We had to sign a ticket for it at 50c per gallon. The next morning he set the brakes and reeved her up
and let go. I forgot to mention there was a wrecked C-47 laying on the end of the runway we had to clear. He jerked it off and actually settled below ground level after we cleared
the bluff to gain more airspeed. Bear in mind this was a 22 year old MAN with probably total flying time of 2 or 3 hundred hours. God rest his soul. He went on the big mission last year.
He was the coolest cucumber I ever met. He set an example for all of us. With a pilot like this, a little luck and a smile from God all of our crew except our navigator finished our
missions and returned home. Our navigator was killed on his first mission at Ploesti flying with a different crew on June 24,1944. Our co-pilot got shot through the guts with flak
on about his 20th mission but recovered and returned home. They cleared one other plane through after us to Tunis. They got down over the Mediterranean and tried to land on a
beach and totalled the plane. We had engine trouble in Tunis and they salvage a cylinder off their wrecked plane to put on our plane. I never heard what happened to the crew.
This is the first time I've told any one this story so after 53 years I cannot remember all the exact details as to times etc but in general the story is correct.
Everett Frank - 721st Squadron